The State of Israel is celebrating its 73rd Independence Day this week. Our small country has truly been a light unto the nations in a wide array of expertise including technology, health, and innovation. However, we have also learned first hand certain critical values. These have included the importance of self-improvement, the danger of low-level terrorism masquerading as peaceful protest, and the critical value of tradition.
Here are three lessons that Americans can learn from the Jewish State, taken from my brand new book, ‘Confronting Radicals: What America Can Learn From Israel.’
Lesson #1: Judaism’s Concept of “Tikun Olam” and “Hakarat Hatov”
The Jewish concept of “Tikun Olam,” (repairing the world’ in Hebrew) is central to the Bible and goes all the way back to the creation of the world. At the end of creating heavens and earth and all that they contain, God created man and woman, and gave us the task of continuing the process of creation to make the world a better place. The United States has gone through a process of self-correction throughout its history, which the current America-haters do not want to discuss. The radical Left speaks of “systemic racism” in America and tears down monuments to great self-sacrificing American heroes, some of whom, like George Washington, happened to own slaves in a time when slavery still existed in most of the world. What the radical Left refuses to recognize is the remarkable ability to correct one’s actions and, preferring to ignore historical context, the radicals mercilessly attack American heroes to score political points and create chaos. In their eyes, everything that doesn’t match the radical Left narrative must be purged a la Stalin, including the symbols that represent the history of the American nation. The problem is that, like a building, a country that destroys its most cherished foundations will ultimately collapse.
There is another concept from Jewish wisdom, which we learn from the first Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Kook, that speaks of “Hakarat Hatov,” meaning appreciating the good. Showing an awareness of, and an appreciation for the good that is done for us is a fundamental concept in Judaism. Jewish heroes like Kings David and Solomon, as well as more modern heroes, such as Theodor Herzl also made mistakes, which we speak about openly, but no Israelis are throwing Molotov cocktails at the Tower of David Museum or setting the Mt. Herzl national cemetery on fire. Therefore, when we read about national heroes, we need to show our appreciation for their great accomplishments, even if some mistakes may have been made along the way.
Lesson #2: Domestic Terrorism is not Social Justice
The nationwide race riots that rocked America last summer seemed like a relatively new phenomenon in the United States, but one thing that we Israelis have learned is that any protest movement that involves violence and weapons of any kind cannot be spontaneous.
There is no “lone wolf” terrorist, not in Israel and not in America. When there is a repeated pattern of violent “protest”, there is always a radical, violent terrorist organization, or organizations, masterminding, or at least inspiring, the strategic descent into violence from behind the scenes. Very often, they are well-funded by other less overtly violent left-wing organizations and/or individuals that provide funding and logistics to accomplish their political goals through the violence which quickly turns from verbal terrorism into anarchy and physical terrorism. We in Israel know that horror first-hand, myself included.
As one who was shot and wounded by Palestinian terrorists along with my then three-year-old son who was shot in the head, and as one who knows and has known hundreds of terror victims in Israel, I can confirm that the purpose of terrorism, aside from killing and wounding innocent civilians, is to aggressively intimidate and frighten people. That is the more subtle goal, which is strategically no less important to the terrorists’ leadership that essentially wants to use that fear to attain its revolutionary political goals. The intent is that people will be afraid to say things that the radicals consider “politically incorrect,” even if factually correct. That is the connection between physical terrorism and verbal terrorism.
Lesson #3: Finding Tranquility Amidst the Chaos
All week long, we are ruled by our need to dominate the world. People are usually defined by their occupations. One is a plumber, another nurse, a construction worker, a salesman, a teacher, a computer technician, a journalist, or a housewife. A person’s occupation is, in fact, the way in which he or she exercises dominance over the world. Yet somehow, his or her most basic humanity is submerged by the chosen occupation. On the Sabbath (Shabbat), all that is changed, everything is transformed. Every man is a king, every woman a queen, ruling his or her destiny, no longer defined and dictated to by the world of work. When there are children involved, they follow the parents’ lead as princes and princesses in the family unit.
The Sabbath is a worldwide phenomenon, but visitors to Israel immediately notice the peace and uplifting serenity of Shabbat in Jerusalem. There is nothing comparable to the transformation from the hustle-bustle of a busy Friday morning in Jerusalem to the Friday evening calm and tranquility from sunset onward until sundown on Saturday. There is perhaps nothing as peaceful as a Shabbat night stroll, near the Old City walls in Jerusalem. As we greet each other in Israel, we say, “Shabbat Shalom!” For religiously-observant Jews, the busy work week, and even the hectic leisure time and shopping weekend is essentially set aside for an entire day. There are no computers, no televisions, and no cellphones in use; we live momentarily on an island in time when all attention is focused on the traditional family life, along with the teachings of the Torah and its relevant commentaries that confront the important moral questions in our lives.
Sadly, in today’s America, there is no full day of rest from the busy technological world. The importance of the Judeo-Christian heritage in providing solace and family bonding in times of uncertainty and chaos cannot be underestimated. Obviously, most Americans are not Jewish and do not need to do it like we do, but wouldn’t it be healthy to slow down a bit, and infuse some of these more grounded traditional elements into the hectic, materialistic, and technologically heavy lifestyle? Especially in these chaotic times, when cities are burning and dangerous forces from the Left are trying to destroy the wonderful freedoms and values that Americans have always cherished, an island in time may give a little peace and clarity of mind, before the battles to come.
It is my fervent prayer that Israel’s great friend and ally, the United States, learns these three valuable lessons, and many others, in order to halt America’s frightening process of societal self-destruction. As Israel celebrates 73 years since our miraculous and modern rebirth, we have learned that a country that abandons its roots and its foundations is bound to eventually collapse. However, a nation that honors and embraces its eternal God-given values will be blessed to enjoy a vibrant future.
Order ‘Confronting Radicals: What America Can Learn From Israel’ on Amazon today.